From a challenging childhood in New York City to troubled teen years marked by resilience and survival, Giselle McNab’s path to motherhood has taken her from darkness to enlightenment. With a remarkable account of breaking a cycle of abuse, the inspiration behind her book, and her mission to empower women and teen girls through her non-profit organization, this Mom to Know has truly defied all odds to become a beacon of strength and hope.
Who is Giselle McNab?
Giselle McNab: I was born in 1975 in New York City to a Puerto Rican mother and Dominican/Italian father. Despite the troubled days, there were really good times where I could remember my hard-working mom and her beautiful big smile and my Dad, always finding ways to entertain us. That was short lived as my mom fell into the wickedness of addiction and my father’s absence. I found occasional reprieve when visiting my grandmother, who showered me with love.
A childhood built on secrets and lies led to turbulent teen years of depression, loneliness, low self-esteem and negative choices. As a teen, I was forced to shoulder the burden of adulthood when caring for my younger siblings as well as a child of my own. In a desperate attempt to escape my circumstances, I ran away from my hometown seeking refuge from that place of darkness, only to find myself married to a narcissistic wife abuser.
My hope was renewed when escaping from years of abuse by starting over in Tampa. Drawing from my new-found inner strength and believing in myself, I began to recreate my life, piecing each one of my dreams together. The life that began as dark, confused and lonely evolved to becoming enlightened and beautiful. It’s the happy ending I’ve always dreamed of.
How did you successfully break the cycle of abuse to create a nurturing and loving environment for your children?
Giselle McNab: I had my first child at 18. How was I going to teach a child about a loving home, education and nurturing if those weren’t the experiences of my childhood? I had to accomplish the absolute opposite of all that hurt me and steered me wrong. Moving to Tampa gave me that opportunity.
Although in that first year I was still struggling with domestic violence, a short stay at The Spring of Tampa Bay Women’s Shelter changed it all for me. Eventually my abuser went to prison for many years, and from that moment, I fought so hard to provide a healthy life to my two girls. I educated them of the hard knocks of life so they understood life is not always going to be beautiful and bright and to always be prepared for the hustle, survival and making smart choices.
Now to witness my single-mom daughter with her son do her very best to provide a good nurturing home and education is so heartwarming.
You wrote a book that delves into the family dynamics and emotional trauma you experienced as a child. What led you to share this personal journey?
Giselle McNab: I’ve always wanted to accomplish it, but my self-esteem was so broken. I was surviving, yes, but I wasn’t fully happy or complete. I wanted an ending like a romance novel or a Hallmark Movie. I felt in my heart that one day I would get that. In 2019, I felt a shift in my heart … how I processed my thoughts with a serious desire of change. I say this is when God spoke to my heart.
My boyfriend at the time (now husband) would always point out the best in me and the goals I never could accomplish. It was time to let go of the pain of the past and bury the negativity. When the pandemic came, the lockdown became the perfect time to begin crossing off my dreams and goals. The book was first on the list.
I was going to write the agony that controlled my heart and soul and let it go once and for all. A couple months later, I was married and I finally had my happy ending. The process was difficult, but after every chapter, I stepped into a beautiful new season of who I am and who I was always meant to be.
Author, realtor, business owner, mother, wife…what got you to this place today?
Giselle McNab: God! He’s always gotten me to where I needed to be. It just took me some time to build a relationship with Him. When I felt strong enough to change the narrative of my life, the “why me” became “why not me,” and that is when I began to understand my purpose. “I” mattered most. “I” am capable. “I” can do all I set my heart to. But with that also comes the strength to walk away from those that don’t understand or support your why.
What can we expect to see from you next?
Giselle McNab: During my healing journey, I accessed invaluable experiences and knowledge and would like to see more of Tampa Bay youth and women exposed to the same opportunities. With the launch of my memoir, “Find Beauty Within Darkness,” I founded The SIS Project.Org, a community driven non-profit dedicated to the wellness of women and teen girls by overcoming trauma and generational cycles with drive, passion and motivation that compels them to succeed and live healthy whole lives.
In all that you have accomplished, what makes you the most proud?
Giselle McNab: Having the courage to walk away from situations and people that hurt me. It’s not easy to do that when these people are supposed to love and care for you. I deserved more; my children deserved more. I’m proud that I acknowledged my worth, believed in myself and refused to walk in the path of what society thought I should.
What is your favorite thing to do in Tampa with your family?
Giselle McNab: My only daughter left at home is 14 and currently in the “I’m bored” season. We enjoy shopping and having lunch at new places around Tampa. We are taking salsa lessons together. I love that she’s learning our culture. I’m happy with Saturday night dinner with friends at a new trendy restaurant and right back to my sofa to enjoy our prerecorded shows or favorite series. New York raised me but Tampa definitely made me. I love this city and enjoy watching it grow a little more everyday.
Photo credit: Ambika Agrawal Photography | Originally published in December 2023 of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine.